Our History

The Brown School was founded in 1925, and in 1937, Brown Hall was dedicated as the nation’s first facility devoted to social work education. It was named for George Warren Brown, the founder of the Brown Shoe Company in St. Louis, and generously funded by a bequest from his widow, Bettie Bofinger Brown.

In 1945, the social work department became its own school, offering a Master of Social Work degree. We soon began a doctoral program and became the first school at Washington University to admit African-American students.

Over the ensuing decades, the School prospered and grew to become one of the top-ranked schools of social work in the nation, focused on evidence-based scholarship and impact. In 2008, we added a Master of Public Health degree, and in 2015, a PhD in Public Health Sciences. Also in 2015, the first cohort started for our Master of Social Policy degree, created in partnership with several universities in China. The Clark-Fox Policy Institute launched in 2017, furthering the School’s commitment to engage in the creation of evidence-based policy solutions.